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How Being an Alcoholic Saved My Life With Borderline Personality Disorder

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When I was first diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD) back in 2017, I felt like it was both a blessing and a curse. Over the three years I have lived with that knowledge, I have not tried to hide from the fact I experience an emotional roller coaster that has me struggle with understanding what is real much of the time. The raw emotions I feel all of the time, the sense of abandonment, the feeling of emptiness, the impulsiveness and impulse control issues, the mood swings and the lack of understanding of what is real and what is not have been a challenge.

I have worked hard at gaining understanding of myself in the three years since I checked myself into the local hospital.  I did three months of dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) and have continued to work the guides and read dozens of books … but none of it helped me completely. I continued to destroy relationships, and worse, I did not recognize in me the one thing that always frightened me: the growing need to self-medicate with alcohol.

You see, not only do I (or better yet, used to) struggle with many symptoms of BPD, I am at my core a raging alcoholic. I kept it at bay, much like I did many of my BPD symptoms until I reached a breaking point. I have recently celebrated a glorious 17 months without any alcohol, I am an active member of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and I no longer fixate on the pain I caused myself and others as I struggled with the points of reality that made me become both an alcoholic and struggle so significantly from the ravages of BPD.

My recovery from alcoholism has been rocky. I have had more than a few struggles and challenges in the 500-plus days I made a decision to permanently walk away from drinking. I have unlocked repressed memories, built amazing friendships, learned who I really am … and in my own way, now build a foundation for tomorrow that would have been impossible when I would not accept the truth as it was presented to me.

Several months ago, I did a few self-assessments and even went back to my doctor and had a real conversation about many of the things my recovery was starting to reveal to me. As we walked through the assessments that led to my diagnosis of BPD, to my amazement, working the 12 steps of AA had begun to reverse many of the things that had held me back.

I take my recovery very seriously today, and while not every symptom has gone away completely, I no longer qualify as actively living with BPD.

I do not consider this is a one-and-done endeavor. I know just because I don’t fit the criteria of the diagnosis doesn’t mean I can coast through life and not continue to work on the things my sobriety has given to me. My way of thinking can slip into past habits. I did think and act this way for 40-plus years and undoing all of that is not something that will ever just be “fixed.” I am a work in progress. I am not as broken as I once was, but I am still deeply flawed. However, I see hope where I once only saw hell. I see joy where I once only saw misery. I feel things, but I don’t let those feelings and emotions control me. I see myself living most of the time in a state of wise mind. And that understanding is a beautiful and wondrous thing.

For me, being an alcoholic saved my life and saved my sanity. It has allowed me to address so much of my troubled past and begin repairing the damage to myself, and to those I once cared so deeply for. Growth is a powerful thing … and I am so grateful I have been able to begin to heal and become more than what I ever thought I could be.

Unsplash image by Bruce Dixon

Originally published: January 27, 2020
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